The term moral panic is a popular expression yet



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The murder was portrayed by the media as a horrific act, which symbolised the degeneration of modern British society, despite the statistically murders were extremely rare in the UK. However, children have in the past killed other children, yet the death of James Bulger has been widely publicised by the media and in turn, moral panic is provoked to gain media attention as Frank Furedi17 points out. 18 The James Bulger case can be contrasted with the case of Mary Bell who at age 11 murdered two toddlers in 1968, there was no moral panic and seemed to be largely ignored by the press.

The media used the Bulger case as an excuse to symbolise all that was wrong with Britain, they focused on the difference between innocence and evil and why we as a society had allowed it to happen, it suggested the increase of public indifference, lowering family values and increasing isolation, generating massive public guilt and predicting a breakdown in the cohesive fabric of society itself. The most recent case of moral panic would be of that of the Japan schoolgirl who killed her classmate.

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19 Japanese schoolgirl, Shimbun slashed her classmate Mitarai in a classroom as she didn’t like what Mitarai said about her on the internet thus, planning the murder for four days earlier, and had been inspired to use a paper cutter after seeing the method used in a television drama. Shimbun’s classmates have also often seen her read horror/thriller books about schoolchildren killing each other. This prompted the Japanese media to question the form of internet communication as it has lead to a murder.

But, the internet cannot be blamed for this crime as it was the television drama which inspired her to murder her classmate. In Japan, youth crime has dramatically increased in recent years as the number of children under 14 committing serious crimes in 2003 rose to 212, a 47% increase on the previous year. 20 This shows the difference between the UK and Japan. In conclusion, moral panics can take two directions, one of which it is easy to be replaced by another once the old one has subsided and forgotten, or it can have a more lasting and serious impact towards the society itself.

Such impact usually introduces new legislation and changes in social policy. The moral panic thesis does have its merits in relation to crime and media as it is created by certain individuals or groups in which, society plays a part encouraged by the media. Moral panics feed off on guilt as society needs a scapegoat. There is a strong relationship between crime and media as it encourages social concern and the media plays a role in forming people’s views. The media may form stereotypes, take bits out of the trade to make money and even publicise bad things which excite the society.

For example, President Clinton’s scandal which was highlighted in every available form of media, society forgot that he was a good president but didn’t forget his scandal. This was all owed to the media. Hence, the strong relationship between crime and media, where would society be without the media? 1 See O’Sullivan, T. , Hartley, J. , Saunders, D. , Montgomery, M. and Fiske, J. (1994) Key Concepts in Communication and Cultural Studies. Routledge: London and New York, 1994. p. 186 2 See Giddens, Anthony. Sociology. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997. p. 173.

A deviant or deviance may be defined as non-conformity to a given set of norms that are accepted by a significant number of people in a community or society. 3 See Goode, Erich and Ben-Yehuda, Nachman. Moral Panics: The Social Construction of Deviance. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1994. 4 See Cohen, Stanley. Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers. Oxford: Martin Robertson, 1979. p. 9. 5 Cohen looked at the reaction of five segments of society: ‘the press, the public, agents of social control or law enforcement, lawmakers and politicians, and action groups’.

6 Media Representation of Crime News. Retrieved on 2nd June 2004 from the World Wide Web: http://www. rouncefield. homestead. com/files/a_soc_dev_37. htm 7 The mass media are media of communication – newspapers, magazines, tabloids, television, radio, cinema, videos, DVDs, CDs, internet and other forms which reach mass audiences. 8 An example can be taken from Cohen’s study of two rival gangs named the Mods and the Rockers during the 1960’s who were famed for their violent confrontations, mainly occurring on British seaside resorts during bank holidays.

9 See Giddens, Anthony. Sociology. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997. p. 377. 10 See Cohen, Stanley. Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers. Oxford: Martin Robertson, 1979. p. 31 11 See Cohen, Stanley. Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers. Oxford: Martin Robertson, 1979. pp. 31 – 34 12 See Cohen, Stanley. Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers. Oxford: Martin Robertson, 1979. pp. 38 – 40.

13 The prediction of events that do in fact come about, because of one’s belief in the prediction and enactment or lack of enactment on that belief, thus reinforcing the belief, i. e. , if a person or group predicts and deeply believes that certain events will come about, that person or group will (sometimes unconsciously) modify behaviors or engage in those behaviors that will create those situations that will cause the predicted events to come about. 14 See Cohen, Stanley. Folk Devils and Moral Panics:

The Creation of the Mods and Rockers. Oxford: Martin Robertson, 1979.pp. 40 – 44 15 R. v Secretary of State for the Home Department Exp. Venables [1998] AC 407; [1997] 3 WLR 23; [1997] 3 All ER 97; [1997] 2 FLR 471; [1997] 9 Admin LR 413′ [1997] Fam Law 789; [1997] 97 (34) LSG 27; [1997] 147 NLJ 955; Times, June 13, 1997; Independent, June 18, 1997 (HL).

16 Retrieved on 3rd June 2004 from the World Wide Web: http://www. jamesbulger. org/main. html and http://www. murderuk. com/childkillers/bulger. htm 17 Furedi, Frank. ‘A Plague of Moral Panics’. Living Marxism Issue 73, November 1994. 18 See Wood, Matthew. Moral Panics.

Retrieved on 2nd June 2004 from the World Wide Web: http://www. aber. ac. uk/media/Students/mtw9403. html 19 Japanese Schoolgirl Killer ‘Sorry’. Extracted from the BBC News World Edition, dated 2nd June 2004. Retrieved on 3rd June 2004 from the World Wide Web: http://news. bbc. co. uk/go/en/fr/-/2/hi/asia-pacific/3772737. stm. 20 Japanese Schoolgirl Killer ‘Sorry’. Extracted from the BBC News World Edition, dated 2nd June 2004. Retrieved on 3rd June 2004 from the World Wide Web: http://news. bbc. co. uk/go/en/fr/-/2/hi/asia-pacific/3772737. stm.

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